In Indias pre-partition days,
for almost two decades, there was perhaps not a single day when Jamshid Nussenwanjee's
name or photo did not appear in the newspapers. The reason is that he played a leading
role in every movement in Karachi whether political, economic, social or religious.
He was in fact the initiator of quite a few movements, and every movement that he started
was a success in the ultimate analysis.
His very presence purified the air
around him, and the people of Karachi somehow got an impression that if Jamshid's name was
associated with them or their institutions, God was bound to shower His blessings upon
them. He was therefore the "Most Wanted Man", the most sought after person and
the most welcome guest in any function or any home in Karachi.
Those who came in contact with him instantly felt the strength of his character. He was
not an ordinary soul.
Mayor Twelve Times
In these days when time- serving and selfishness play such an important
part in our public life, it would be worthwhile studying the life of this great man who
was considered to be one of the noblest sons of Sind. Studying his life is always a source
Jamshid, who was known as the
"Maker of Modern Karachi", had the Unique distinction of being elected the Mayor
of Karachi for 12 consecutive years. The broad roads, beautiful parks, schools, hospitals,
maternity homes, good sanitation, homes for the poor and other civic amenities which the
citizens of Karachi enjoyed in those days were the result of the untiring efforts and
dedicated Service of this great man. When the municipal history of Karachi is written, one
of its most outstanding features will be the remarkable efficiency with which Jamshid
faced every situation. It was he more than any other person who gave Karachi its character
as the cleanest and best administered city in the Indo-Pakistan Sub-continent.
In the field of politics, too, Jamshid had a unique record. According
to the rules of modern politics, a candidate has to stand for election, go from person to
person and beg for votes, whereas in Jamshid's case people used to go to him and beg of
him to stand for election. In present-day politics, many candidates give all sorts of
promises and use all sorts of methods, fair or foul, to get elected, whereas Jamshid gave
no promises and no undertakings. On the contrary, he would extract a promise from his
helpers that they would remain absolutely fair under all circumstances.
In 1937, friends, admirers and ordinary Citizens went to Jamshid in a
deputation and begged of him to become a candidate. Jamshid agreed, but on condition that
there should be no publicity and no canvassing for votes and that an absolutely honest
statement of accounts be maintained. When only a few days were left for the election,
Jamshid started his so-called "Election Campaign" in the Dadu district whose
people had urged him to contest the election. Very few people in this district had seen
Jamshid before, but they had heard so much about this saintly man that they flocked in
thousands at various places just to have a glimpse (darshan) of him. No one was asked to
give votes and no one made any mention of the election. Poor and simple people of all
communities walked miles and miles to have a glimpse of Jamshid, their benefactor.
Although four candidates were opposing Jamshid in that election, Jamshid received more
votes than all of them put together.
But within a couple of years, when Jamshid found that intrigues were
going on and no solid work for the welfare of the people was being done in the Assembly,
he immediately tendered his resignation.
Jamshid was universally acknowledged
as a man of principle. He felt that wine and spirits were a cause of human misery and
degradation. He not only became a teetotaler himself, but preached prohibition and
refused to take his share of profits from the sale of wine in his father's business. By
this attitude of Jamshid, his father's firm earned the displeasure of the foreign
wine-manufacturing firms. Great pressure was brought upon his father to induce his son to
desist from taking
part in this movement, and the former was told that if his son did not
desist the firms' most lucrative agency would be taken away. It must be said to the credit
of his father that he decided to forgo a substantial income rather than put any pressure
on his son to work against the dictates of his conscience.
It is said that Jamshid's reputation for honesty and straight dealings
was so high that the Income Tax Officer never put a single query about his Annual Tax
Return. The Form which bore the signature of "Jamshid Nussenvanjee" was enough.
Years ago, there was a big run on the Central Bank of India. A rumor
was spread that the Bank was in financial difficulty and might go bankrupt, and there was
therefore a long queue of hundreds of depositors wanting to withdraw their funds. When
Jamshid received the news, he dashed to the Bank, and as soon as people saw his familiar
figure entering the bank, hopes revived, and people got a sort of silent reassurance that
something good was bound to happen.
Within a few minutes Jamshid came out, took a chair, stood over it and
in pin-drop silence made, a brief announcement that there was nothing wrong with the Bank,
their money was safe, and if anybody wanted, he, Jamshid Nussenvanjee, was prepared to
give a guarantee for his money's safety. Within a few minutes, the huge crowd melted away.
They knew that his word was his bond.
No account of
Jamshid's life would be complete without a mention of his contribution to the field of
social service, charity and self-sacrifice. Although he was a millionaire, he lived like a
fakir (modest man), accepting only the barest necessities of life for himself, while
giving away all his wealth to the needy, the widows and the orphans without distinction of
caste, color or creed. All his charities were silent and private. It was only after his
death that the world came to know through his private secretary that he had given away 50
lakhs of rupees (US$1.6 Million at that time) without letting anyone know about it.